Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflections on the African Experience

Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflections on the African Experience

Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflections on the African Experience

Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflections on the African Experience

Synopsis

This book offers a philosophical interpretation and critical analysis of the African cultural experience in modern times. In their attempt to evolve ways of life appropriate to our modern world culture, says Kwame Gyekye, African people face a number of unique societal challenges, some stemming from the values and practices of their traditional cultures, others representing the legacy of European colonialism. Defending the cross-cultural applicability of philosophical concepts developed in Western culture, Gyekye attempts to show the usefulness of such concepts in addressing a wide range of concrete and specifically African problems. Among the issues he considers are: economic development, nation-building, the evolution of viable and appropriate democratic political institutions, the development of appropriate and credible ideologies, political corruption, and the crumbling of traditional moral standards in the wake of rapid social change. Throughout, Gyekye challenges the notion that modernity for Africa must be equated with Western values and institutions, arguing instead that African modernity must be forged creatively within the furnace of Africa's many-sided cultural experience. A timely and powerful addition to postcolonial theory, Tradition and Modernity will interest scholars and students working in philosophy, political science, sociology, and African studies.

Excerpt

The study undertaken in this book is a philosophical interpretation and critical analysis of the African cultural experience in modern times, an experience that is clearly many-sided, having resulted not only from encounters with what one might regard as alien cultures and religions but also from problems internal to the practice of the indigenous cultural values, beliefs, and institutions themselves in the setting of the modern world. Thus, the study is, in part, a critical evaluation of values and practices of traditional culture. It stresses the normative grounds of criticism, with a view to exploring the relevance or irrelevance of those indigenous and "alien" values and ideas to modern life. Its significance lies in its illumination of the dilemmas confronting the African people as they attempt to enter or create modernity in their own ways and evolve forms of life symphonic with the ethos of our contemporary world, while suggesting alternative ways of thought and action.

The problems confronting the African people and their societies in the modern world are legion. To the extent that some of the problems are cultural--in the sense that they are causally related to cherished practices, habits, attitudes, and outlooks that derive from the inherited indigenous cultures--it can be said that such problems predate, and can hardly be said to have resulted from, the imposition of European colonial rule with its concomitant introduction of European cultural values and institutions. But it can also be said that some of the problems derive from attempts to grapple with, and adjust to, the aftermath of colonial rule and its institutions. Perhaps it is the complex sources of the problems that have made them more intricate, daunting, and resilient.

Among the problems on which philosophical attention could be brought to bear are the following:

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